Kingsley, Oldest Plantation House in Florida
Visit the grounds and buildings of a Sea Island plantation, just 20 minutes south of Amelia Island in northeast Florida. According to the National Park Service, the Kingsley Plantation house, constructed in 1798, “is the oldest planter’s residence still standing in Florida.”
Located riverfront, Kingsley Plantation on Fort George Island is worth a visit any day of the year (and admission is always free). It’s a scenic route from Amelia Island along Heckscher Drive through Big and Little Talbot Islands then onto Fort George Island. Once making the turn off Heckscher, the unpaved road leading into the plantation cuts through 2 miles of thick, native maritime forest.
Special Events at Kingsley Plantation
Two days a year, however, offer an extra special opportunity to experience a presentation at Kingsley Plantation when history comes alive. The grounds are full of reenactors and special demonstrations.
During Black History Month each year in February, the Heritage Festival is held. Reenactors create a timeline of Fort George Island’s history with lots of demonstrations. The other big event of the year at Kingsley Plantation is held in the fall, Harvest Day (in October).
Roam the grounds and step through the ruins of 25 tabby slave cabins (circa 1814). Tour the main house itself (c. 1798) on the Fort George River waterfront (plus adjacent kitchen house c. 1814) and a large barn. Key plantation crops were sea island cotton, indigo (for making dye), and sugar cane. Wander along the riverbank and walk upon the dock. The Kingsley property offers an amazing riverfront vista. There’s also an interpretive history garden where cotton and indigo are planted. The plantation bears the name of a planter and slave trader, Zephaniah Kingsley, who married one of his slaves and set her free. Anna Kingsley was an African woman who became a plantation manager and business woman, an intriguing individual of the plantation era.
Kingsley Plantation Photo Gallery
Browse the Kingsley Plantation photo gallery below (click arrows). These images were taken on a picture-perfect October afternoon during the special Harvest Day event last year. Reenactors cooked, churned butter, demonstrated the process of making indigo dye and tabby, performed blacksmithing, cotton ginning, weaving, and also fired vintage weapons during this special event that was a wonderful learning experience.
Self-Guided Tours, Informational Exhibits
The Kingsley Plantation offers plenty of exhibit signs explaining its history, allowing visitors to take self-guided tours at their own pace around this sprawling riverfront property with its own dock on the Fort George River. Brochures and audio program are also available. However, park ranger tours can also be booked weekends (held at 11 am and 3 pm) on a limited basis (call in advance for reservation).
Visiting Hours, Kingsley Plantation
Kingsley Plantation daily visiting hours are 9 to 5, seven days a week (except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years Day) — admission is always free. Note that touring the main plantation house itself may be closed for ongoing structural work, but the kitchen house (c. 1814), barn and slave quarters can always be toured. There is also a visitor info/bookstore on the property. Visitors may wish to call ahead to confirm whether the main house is open at 904-251-3537 or 904-251-3626.
Directions to Kingsley Plantation in Jacksonville, Florida
(Also see Google map below). From Amelia Island, travel south taking the Nassau Sound Bridge onto Heckscher Drive/A1A. It’s a scenic route, about a 20 minutes, passing through Big and Little Talbot Islands, onto Fort George Island, where Kingsley Plantation is located. After Huguenot Memorial Park, the turn for Kingsley Plantation is about a mile further, on the right (about a half mile before reaching the Mayport Ferry landing.) The unpaved road to Kingsley (Palmetto Avenue), cuts through native maritime forest for two miles, before reaching the Plantation house on the riverbank.
Address: Kingsley Plantation, 11676 Palmetto Avenue, Jacksonville, Florida 32226
For more information visit the National Park Service Kingsley Plantation website, or call 904-251-3537 or 904-251-3626.
Timucuan Trail State and National Parks
Kingsley Plantation is part of the “Timucuan Trail State and National Parks,” a co-op between America’s National Park System, the state of Florida, city of Jacksonville and the Nature Conservancy. This northeast Florida system of parks “includes some of the last unspoiled coastal wetlands on the Atlantic Coast of the United States and preserves the area’s rich historic and prehistoric sites,” according to the National Park Service. Explore “the Real Florida” represented within this very special park system. Visitors travel through lovely marshland, beautiful coastal dunes and thick, native maritime forest. Artifacts uncovered in this region suggest human habitation dating back 6,000 years.
See much more about all the Timucuan Trail Parks at the Timucuan Trails Parks Foundation website.